London part 2

London  part 2

Part 2 of our London trip included viewing Queen Victoria’s and Princess Diana’s dresses in Kensington Palace  in London. On the way to Kensington Palace we walked through Hyde Park. The sun was out, there were primroses in the planter boxes, wild parakeets in the trees and snow drops under the bushes just outside Kensington Palace.  At home in Massachusetts 5-8″ of snow was predicted.

Snow Drops

Snow Drops

Inside Kensington Palace we saw some of the rooms Queen Victoria lived in as a child. As we are watching Victoria on PBS and The Crown on Netflix, seeing these rooms in person was fascinating. The rooms are much smaller than one would think from the television shows. Several of the rooms in the Queen Victoria part of the museum were closed for renovations. This is the only photo I took in this section of the museum– one of Queen Victoria’s gowns.

Queen Victoria's gown

Queen Victoria’s gown

The contrast of the delicate white lace gown with the heavy red and gold over-robe and the thick gold rope belt tied in a loop knot is striking.

Lastly, we went to see a temporary exhibit of some of Princess Diana’s dress.

Shirred silk chiffon with beads and sequins

Shirred silk chiffon with beads and sequins

This gown, designed by Gina Fratini for Hartnell in 1991, was inspired by saris. Princess Diana wore the gown in Rio de Janieiro, Brazil. I was intrigue by the mix of beads and sequins at the top of the bodice.

 

Pastel sequin dress

Pastel sequin dress

 

 

 

Close up of sequins

Close up of sequins

This dress, designed by Katherine Walker, was worn on the same trip to Brazil in 1991. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a close up photo of the sequins.

 

Gold Falcon Dress

Gold Falcon Dress

This dress was near the end of the exhibit; it was designed by Katherine Walker and worn by Princess Diana during a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1986. I love the way the gold falcons start on the right shoulder, cross the front of the gown, continue around to back at the waist, and then cascade down the back, slightly left of center, all the way down onto the train. The falcons, made of padding and gold sequins, are different sizes and shapes accentuating the sense of flight.

Gold Falcon gown, front

 

Gold Falcon gown, back

Much has been already written about Princess Diana, the People’s Princess.  For me she represented a person who developed a style, which we would now call a brand, which could be adapted by regular people like me.  I grew up in the 60’s and early 70’s when to think about clothes and how one looked was considered shallow; we were supposed to be concerned with ending the Vietnam War, the future of our planet when it was being destroyed by DDT,  and other “serious” issues.  Clothing, make up and self presentation was not only unimportant but thinking about them was egotistic and vainglorious.  Fancy clothes, anything other than blue jeans,  were a “Costume” which didn’t reflect the “real you”.  This notion was further reinforced by my life in the theatre, where I  made costumes for a living. Somehow Princess Diana managed to marry her personal appearance in fancy clothes with political actions, like meeting AIDS patients while wearing a beautiful dress. While I didn’t need a beaded gown or even a tailored suit, I could analyze Princess Diana’s stylish appearance, her gracious ways and apply them to my life: to my wardrobe, my house and my interactions with others. Trite as it might be, she was a role model for me.  Her clothes were, and are, an access point into the courteous, smiling and accepting person that was (the public) Princess Diana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITAA Conference

ITAA 2017

Last week I went to the ITAA Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. ITAA stands for International Textile and Apparel Association, a mouthful in initials or spelled out. http://itaaonline.org/event/2017Conference

My editor at Laurence King Publishing, Anne, always liked going to this conference, but could not attend this year. Anastasia, also from LKP, encouraged me to join here there. Kara and Helen completed the team from LKP attending the conference.

My Wednesday afternoon trip to St. Petersburg was easy. After I checked into the Hyatt Hotel where I was staying, I ran to the Hilton Hotel where the ITAA conference was being held. I found the ballroom where the 6-8pm Fairchild Publications cocktail party was winding up, as it was 7:45 pm. I quickly put my purse down next to a woman who was eating and said, “I’ll be right back — with some food.” She replied, ”Pile your plate up, they’re shutting down the buffet very soon.” My kind of woman! Deborah Vandermar, the Executive Director of the Makers Coalition, and I quickly found many things to talk about. We were soon joined by Dyanne Marte of American River College, who had just arrived from Sacramento CA, and the three of us found even more to talk about. Eventually, the hotel staff turned on all the fluorescent lights in the ballroom and Deborah, Dyanne and I reluctantly wrapped up our conversation and said good night to one other; this scene was repeated all over the ballroom: small groups of attendees talking animatedly about fashion and related fields, and reluctantly concluding their conversations, but agreeing to meet up again tomorrow.

Meeting Deborah and Dyanne, having a long conversation with them about fashion and fashion production was great. These women were like me, and they liked me. This conference was going to be fun!

On Thursday, I met Anastasia, Kara and Helen in the Exhibitor’s Hall, where they were presiding over at two tables of LKP books. They were very welcoming. When I blew up my inflate-able mannequin and dressed her in the feather bodice that’s shown on the cover of Creating Couture Embellishment they were impressed. Kara took photos of me holding my book next to the feather bodice; I will add that photo here when I get a copy from Kara.

After a bit of chit-chat with Kara, Helen and Anstasia I went off to my first Breakout Session. All the sessions are 1 hour and 15 minutes long; four papers are presented and there’s a little bit of time for Q & A. Of all of the presentations I heard, the paper that caught my imagination the most was Shifting the Basic Pattern Block into a New Framework to Fit the Demands of Post Double Mastectomy Women. The team of researchers asked if women who are Living Flat (women who can’t tolerate implants or prosthetics, or don’t want to) would they be willing to buy new clothes to fit their new shape? The majority of respondents said they would like new clothes that fit their new shape, and would pay for them. What caught my attention was the next step: what do these clothes look like? Do they have 2 waist darts that taper the fabric from the shoulder to the waist? Or shaped side seams? The paper’s authors made 2 muslins showing both versions: they preferred the waist dart solution.

My questions went beyond the basic pattern: Do the tops have bulky fabric manipulations (e.g. a cowl neckline) to camouflage the flatness? Or ornamentation to proclaim a woman’s successful battle against cancer? Or just flat, subtle clothing that doesn’t hide, but doesn’t shout “Flat” either?

Thursday’s luncheon speaker, Chris Lane of 3dMD, spoke about using 3-D scanners to gauge how clothing fits bodies. http://www.3dmd.com/  Actually, he talked about a lot more than that, but that’s the part captured my attention the most. The images of men jumping up and down and watching the clothing move with them, or not, and of women bending over and seeing how far the seat of the pants needed to stretch while the waistband stayed at the waist were amazing.

2 photos of women in workout wear

3dMD photo

 

I know that Harley Davidson™ motorcycle clothes come with extra long sleeves so that when you ride with your arms outstretched your wrists are still covered, but when you’re not riding there’s a lot of extra fabric at the wrist that I always fold up into an awkward cuff. Another scenario, having baggy knees in your pants after you sit for a long time, which comes from stretching the straight leg of your pants around the curve of your knee, is also not great. Getting fabrics to look good relaxed or stretched, straight or curved is still an issue- even with lycra.

 

To cap off the day Claire Shaeffer presented a collection of Chanel and St. Laurent garments.

 

Claire Shaeffer

Claire Shaeffer

Many of the garments had been opened up so we could compare the interfacings and construction methods. Claire had cotton gloves for everyone to wear so we could handle the garments while she explained how they differed from one another and the purpose of each couture technique. Claire couldn’t have been nicer. What a marvelous opportunity to meet and talk to an idol of mine! And she asked me to autograph a copy of my book for her!!!!

Friday morning there was a Book Signing for me in the Exhibition Hall starting at 9 am. I brought 3 more inflate-able forms and the bodices from the Tucks, Lace Trim and Passementerie chapters to show.

Table with Tuck, Lace Trim, Passementerie and Feather bodices. Also books

Ready to sign books

Here is the table all set up: imagine me standing in the space between the Passementerie and Feathers bodices, smiling and ready to sign your copy of the book. Someday I will master enough of Photoshop to be able to add me into a photo like this.

2 tables with books and bodices for Laurence King Publishing

The Laurence King Publishing tables

The book signing was scheduled from 9-10 am but went on until 12 noon as women kept stopping to look at the book and chat. At 12 noon I signed the last of the 16 copies LKP had shipped to St. Petersburg. WooHoo!

Although the conference continued for a few more days, I was done. I met so many remarkable women at the ITAA conference. (There were very few men there.) Often I was greeted with a chilly “hello” because my name tag didn’t say “University of…” but when I said “textbook about sewing” everyone smiled and wanted see the book.

I am eager for my next adventure publicizing Creating Couture Embellishment.  I’m still thinking about women who are Living Flat and what their new clothes could look like. Any design ideas?

A Book Signing Party

We had a Book Signing Party!

Cat Burkey, Jane Levin, Ellen Miller, Tracy Aiguier, Martha Palaza, Eddi Phillips and Roseanna Ansaldi seated around a table, all holding copies of Creating Couture Embellishment.

Everyone has a copy of Creating Couture Embellishment!

from left to right: Catherine Burkey, Jane Levin, Ellen Miller, Tracy Aiguier,  Martha Palaza,  Eddi Phillips, Roseanna Ansaldi.

Over the seven years of creating the book I had many collaborators, many with more than one job.  Anne Townley was my editor at Laurence King Publishing, although “editor”. Amy Ozay designed the spectacular bodices shown at the start of each chapter. Very early on Anne and Amy insisted, rightly, that each chapter have a consistent color theme running through it, and thus elevated the tone of the entire book. Neither Amy nor Anne could attend the book signing party and we missed them!

Martha Palaza helped with the pattern making: creating the basic pattern and muslin for Faith, our mannequin for the bodices.  Martha also stepped into the breach whenever my pattern making skills faltered and gently set me on the right course.  Roseanna Ansaldi helped me master pleats, tucks and spiral flounces.  Roseanna and I tried many fabrics for the sample for these chapters (linen, plain cotton, striped cotton, cotton polyester blends) before settling on a fine wool, notable for it’s ability to hold a crease. Jane Levin created all of the line drawings in the book, working until each drawing showed a precise moment in the sewing process with utmost clarity.   Eddi Phillips designed nearly all of the amazing sleeves featured in the circles at the top of each technique.  Eddi also helped choose the appropriate fabrics and trims for each sleeve, ensuring the sleeves were couture quality. Catherine Burkey designed some of the more picturesque sleeves, and worked with me day after day until all the sleeves were perfectly sewn, creating a comprehensive library of the techniques. Tracy Aiguier photographed all the bodices and sleeves, leaving me speechless with the beauty of the photographs. I could not have “written” this book without their invaluable help.

Laurence King Publishing spent two years “editing” Creating Couture Embellishments: book design, layout, color correction of my photos, copy editing and text-photo matching, checking the colors of the “actions” lines in Pleats, Tucks and so forth. All the work by Laurence King Publishing transformed my Word documents into a beautiful book. But it had been two years since many of us had gotten together, and some of the collaborators had never met each other. The release of Creating Couture Embellishments was the perfect reason to have a party together.

My husband and I made Swiss Chard Spanakopita and a big salad. We had wine, beer & ice tea. For dessert we had cake & ice cream.  In between the main course and dessert my fellow artisans and I sat at one table to sign books. You would think that our spouses/partners would cheer us on as we signed books—you would be wrong! They ignored us and carried on with own conversations that had nothing to do with fashion. Luckily, my niece Alice (of Kimono blog fame) was suitable impressed by all of us and took pictures to commemorate the occasion. We tried to stretch dessert so we could talk for hours but we had to disband about 10 pm as everyone had a long drive home and work the next morning. It was a wonderful party to celebrate a unique event: Signing Creating Couture Embellishments!

 

 

 

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About Me

#5  About Me

I am a sewist*, an author, a teacher, a mother of 2 grown children, and wife.

Ellen in a pink muslin

I am sewist:

Long sleeves on a table, from Creating Couture Embellishments

Long sleeves on a table, from Creating Couture Embellishments

I love to make to clothes. I love taking a piece of flat paper or muslin and creating a pattern, cutting out the garment pieces in a luscious fabric, pining the pieces together, sewing and pressing the seams to form a three-dimensional thing that slides over the body giving voice to wearer’s inner vision of herself (mine or a client’s). Creating clothes is slow, meticulous work but oh- the final product- it speaks of me: the love and care put in to it and it speaks of the wearer: bold or soft spoken, brightly colored or muted tones, bejeweled or plain- if it accurately represents the wearer- she will stand tall and feel confident: an equal to anyone in the room.

I am an author:

photo of book

It took seven years to “write” and edit Creating Couture Embellishments ; it will be in bookstores in July, 2017! Creating Couture Embellishments is a 400-page, abundantly illustrated, how-to book with 3 sections–basic tools and techniques, fabric manipulation, and embellishments and trimmings— 23 chapters covering 174 techniques including quilting, ruffles and flounces, passementerie, beads and sequins. The “writing” included making the samples, photographing the samples and writing the text to accompany the photographs of the samples.

I am a teacher:

Couture Detail notebook, filled with handouts from Ellen’s class

photo of binder

I love to teach pattern making and sewing. I am fascinated by how students learn: some need to read a textbook, some need to see a demonstration, some need to do the project themselves. The moment when an idea or concept suddenly makes sense to a student – the aha! moment – is joyous. It might be a small moment: a button needs a shank so it stands above thicknesses of the cloth around the buttonhole, or it might big a moment: clothing alterations are like draping but on a real person. When a student understands the lesson- that’s the reward for a teacher.

I am a Mother and Wife:

My two children are very private people, as opposed to me, I will answer just about any question and I have no modesty. My children are amazingly smart- like their dad they attended an Ivy League School, and are able write coherently about Enya and Chemistry in the same paragraph. My beloved husband of 30+ years has spent the last 40+ years managing professional theaters. As he might tell you, like many former boy scouts he is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. And a little silly sometimes.

*Sewist is the newest term for someone who loves to sew, as sewer can be confused with someone who loves to sew or the waste-water handler. I’m not crazy about sewist but it’s better than sewer.

 

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My Book has arrived at our house!

My Book has arrived at our house!

My copy of my Book, Creating Couture Embellishments, arrived in late May!!!! I am so excited! The book looks BEAUTIFUL!   The photos are gorgeous, the illustrations are clear, the text is present on the page, but doesn’t fight with the photos. Everyone at Laurence King Publishing did an amazing job: Thank you!

The book cover for Creating Couture Embellishment featuring blue feather neckline embellishment

This project started seven years ago when someone from Laurence King Publishing (LKP) sent an email to the School of Fashion Design (SFD) asking if any of the teachers were thinking about writing a book. Jim Hannon, head of SFD, forwarded the email to the staff.   Hmm…At our Passover Seder that spring, my friend Diana and I had joked that we should write books together one summer; she is a Psychiatrist, I am a fashion design teacher. Should we spend the summer writing together?

At the time my mother was quite sick and needed more of my time, so I was contemplating taking a leave of absence from teaching. Maybe taking care of my mother and writing a book would be just the ticket for me. I spent the summer dreaming about writing a book.

Laurence King Publishing has a very clear book proposal protocol. What is the book about? Who is the target market? Are there other books like this in the market? and more questions in that vein. I had to work hard refining my ideas about this book just to submit the proposal. Once the proposal was accepted, we (LKP and me) thought it take two years to write this 24 chapter book: a chapter a month seemed like a reasonable work schedule. It took me five years to produce 26 chapters, and it took LKP another two years to edit, layout and print the resulting 23 chapter book. (Yes, 3 chapters were cut: Needle Felting, Crochet and Finishing Details, because the book was too long.)

The basis of Creating Couture Embellishments was a class I taught at SFD: Couture Details. Many of the techniques in Creating Couture Embellishments are straight from my lessons, but some of the techniques were subjects I needed to research further. I knew how to make lots of Flowers, but I had no idea how many different decorations could be made from folding ribbon. I knew how to manipulate and sew lace but I never knew the history of lace making and how the nomenclature came about. Researching and making the samples for the book was time consuming but great fun. Learning to photograph the samples and to write in an academic voice was harder. Normally I write in a chatty voice, as though we were having a conversation, but textbooks require an academic voice. “Just snug the ribbon over until it looks right” won’t do; “Pulling gently on the thread, gather the ribbon into petals” is better. The photographs show exactly where the thread goes through the fabric and must match the text. Having good photos for Steps 1 & 3, but not for Step 2 meant that I needed to redo the entire sequence, otherwise the thread could be 3” long in one photo and 6” long in the next photo. Thus, the two-year timetable went out the window and two years became five years.

 

During those five years my editor at LKP, Anne, never said, “Hurry up” or “What’s taking so long?” Every chapter I submitted was greeted with words of good cheer, followed by edits: photo suggestions, Step improvements, rewrites and general tiding up of the text. Anne, Jodi and many other editors, and I, were careful to get each step right: with the photos and in the text. The results of many years of concentrated work and patient editing are now before me: in this very real copy of Creating Couture Embellishments! Thank you to everyone who helped make this book so beautiful! I hope you find Creating Couture Embellishments helpful, instructive and inspiring.

 

 

 

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